‘Michael’s made a difference’

Deborah Levy’s thumbs-up says it all.

The mother of paralyzed teen Michael Levy offered the gesture to onlookers outside Surrey Provincial Court on Tuesday, following Judge Kenneth Ball’s sentencing of the last of three teens convicted of assaulting Michael.

The previously unnamed 18-year-old – whose identity up until now has been protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act – was sentenced as an adult. He was stripped of his anonymity and given five times the maximum jail sentence he would have received as a young offender.

After subtracting two years for time already served, Enrique Quintana was given eight years in a federal prison.

Quintana buried an axe into the back of Michael’s neck at a teen dance in Surrey in October, 2006.

Tuan “Tony” Minh Nguyen, 19, is serving 20 months house arrest for punching Michael and initiating the group assault. (His sentence is being appealed by the Crown).

Robert Alexander Green, 18, received a total of three years in jail for hitting Michael with a bottle.

But Quintana is responsible for putting the once-strong Michael, who had hopes of joining the Canadian Forces, in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

This “act of such brutal savagery” is what prompted Judge Ball to jail Quintana for 10 years – four years longer than what even the prosecutor in the case recommended.

Ball went on to say citizens need to be protected from Quintana, who has a troubled past and a history of violence.

Finally, a judge who gets it – punishment for a heinous act and protection of the public. Justice in a nutshell.

Afterwards, as an emotionally drained Crystal Levy – Michael’s sister – stood quietly nearby, Deborah tried to find the words to express her relief.

“We made a difference ... Michael’s made a difference,” she said. “Maybe now another kid will think before he wields an axe, a gun or a knife, that he’ll pay for it.”

Michael was too ill from stress to attend Tuesday’s sentencing. He likely feared Quintana would receive a lesser penalty.

While some will argue 10 years doesn’t compare to Michael’s life sentence, it is certainly one of the harsher terms handed out in recent memory. (Darnell Pratt, who at age 16 dragged Grant DePatie to his death during a gas-and-dash, received a nine-year adult sentence in 2006. The B.C. Court of Appeal later reduced it to seven).

Now that the Levy case is closed – barring an appeal, of course, which Quintana’s lawyer says he is considering – Michael will get back to tackling the mundane tasks of living that most of us take for granted.

Bathing. Getting dressed. Eating.

As the cameras fade away and the daily grind sets in, he may slip into despair. But he should be proud of himself.

He is one brave young man – not only for facing his assailants in court, but for rising to the formidable challenges he must endure as a quadriplegic. Like many disabled people in the spotlight – Rick Hansen, Sam Sullivan – Michael Levy can serve as a powerful role model for young people, proof that the human spirit can overcome extreme hardship.

We wish him all the best in that regard.

And, as his mom points out, there’s more.

Following this week’s judgment, in addition to the possible deterrence factor on future perpetrators, perhaps other judges will rethink giving light sentences to criminals for brutal, violent attacks that maim the innocent.

Thumbs up, Michael.

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